UK seeks to lift restrictions on genetically altered foods — Analysis

If a bill is passed through parliament, it could lead to a surge in the production of gene-edited plants and livestock.

British legislators could relax the restrictions on genetically modified foods with new legislation. “gene editing”Some crops are not allowed, however they insist that they do not constitute “genetically modified organisms”GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are subject to severe regulation. 

The new ‘Genetic Technology’ bill was introduced in parliament on Wednesday, described by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as a way to “cut red tape and support the development of innovative tech to grow more resistant, more nutritious, and more productive crops.”

“These precision technologies allow us to speed up the breeding of plants that have natural resistance to diseases and better use of soil nutrients so we can have higher yields with fewer pesticides and fertilisers,”George Eustice Environment Secretary stated that in a statement. He also added, “Outside the EU we are free to follow the science.”

The European Union defines gene-edited food as GMOs and regulates them according to that definition. This is in stark contrast with the US Department of Agriculture which makes distinctions for regulatory purposes.

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Because gene-editing is fundamentally different to genetic modification (which involves inserting DNA from one species into the other), the British bill aligns more with American standards. Although there are many gene-edited plants that can be grown using traditional cross-breeding techniques, genetic editing is able to produce the exact same results faster and more precisely.

Some environmental activists insist there’s no difference. However, a spokesperson from Friends of the Earth argued that “Gene editing is genetic modification by a different name.”

“It still focuses on altering the genetic code of plants and animals to deal with the problems caused by poor soils, the over-use of pesticides and intensive farming,”The org stated.

The government has nonetheless argued that cutting regulations for the practice could dramatically speed up the creation of new and enhanced crops and ultimately improve the country’s food security.

“We anticipate [the bill] will enable precision-bred crops to navigate the regulatory system much more quickly, in something like one year compared with approximately 10 years under the present regime,”Gideon Henderson was a scientist advisor to the government.

In its present form, the measure will apply only to England, potentially setting up disputes with Scotland and Wales given that both regions maintain EU-like regulations on the production and sale of GMOs and genetically edited foods. A recent warning from the Scottish government stated it was resisting attempts to have this rule imposed in London by London’s ministers. However, Secretary Eustice has claimed that neither Scotland nor Wales could ban sales of GMOs.

Although the bill will reduce restrictions on crops initially, provisions are made for livestock as well. Gene-editing is a way to make animals more resistant to diseases and other illnesses. Animals have been less comfortable with this practice due to concerns that it might cause them suffering. The new bill, though, will permit lawmakers to cut back on red tape and make sure it includes sufficient protections.

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